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Education, Experience, or Expertise?

The Case For Education:

As you may or may not know, I’m in the process of getting my MBA. I have an epic love/hate relationship with school and I have only had a brief two years in life (between undergrad & grad school) where school wasn’t an overbearing and all consuming portion of my life. The short and skinny of it though, is that I genuinely appreciate school, education, and academics. This is a far cry from my brother who has struggled with school his entire life. His is the classic case of “too smart for his own good,” where he ended up going through three different high-schools before graduating, and getting generally shitty grades and pissing off as many teachers as possible.

My brother’s take is obviously more extreme than my own, but somehow I think we end up with the same conclusion. Signing up for a “program” and executing it isn’t enough. I thankfully ended up getting interesting classes this semester. The one that is most closely aligned with my interests and the general direction of this blog is brand management. The marketing staff at Carlson is fairly highly regarded (close associations with Target, Best Buy, IBM, et al), but I highly doubt my professors are very active on facebook , myspace, twitter, linkedin, and the like. Web 2.0’s impact on the field of marketing and brand management is dynamic and is in constant flux.  These areas can't be taught in an academic setting, you have to live (or die) by the sword.  You have to get in the shit (so to speak).

So Then, Experience is Most Important, Right?

Well, not exactly.

Jon Gordon recently made a call for a national tweetout, his reasons are perspective, my reasons are more focused on having all of the people who consider themselves to be marketing experts and Web 2.0 gurus shut their damn trap for 2 seconds while I try to have conversations with my friends and family. Yes, I'm being somewhat of a hypocrite since I really enjoy marketing (and particulary branding) right now, but sometimes it's frustrating that every time you write something in 140 characters or less, you may have to be mindful of the potential impact on your personal brand.  Bullocks! [/rant]

But seriously, I do enjoy the fact that I’m participating in a lot of these new venues. It is still unclear how the facebooks & twitters of the world will generate revenue, but it is clear that the world of marketing will coalesce around these Web 2.0 properties in one form or another. So, education clearly isn't enough, and participating in some of these websites (phenomenons?) helps to understand the momentum of a lot of the unfolding Web 2.0 services.  But just because you dance in the mud a little here and there, doesn't mean your contribution is moving us forward as a society, or that you are becoming an expert on the matter.

Jonathan Rosenberg recently posted an email originally addressed to fellow googlers on the google blog that really resonated with me:

"Of course, the greatest user experience is pretty useless if there's nothing good to read, a truism that applies not just to newspapers but to the web in general. Just like a newspaper needs great reporters, the web needs experts. When it comes to information, not all of it is created equal and the web's future depends on attracting the best of it. There are millions of people in the world who are truly experts in their fields — scientists, scholars, artists, engineers, architects — but a great majority of them are too busy being experts in their fields to become experts in ours. They have a lot to say but no time to say it."

I think it's no secret that my blog is completely anemic in the updates department.  Not to whine or anything,  but my life schedule is completely insane.  This semester has been super crazy.  I travel every week for work, consulting clients who have serious levels of anxiety (is there such a thing as an ERP implementation where the client isn't riffe with anxiety?  If so, I wan't that project!).  Meanwhile, I spend Saturdays at school from 8am to 4pm. And somewhere in there, I have to spend time with my partner of 4 years (just celebrated!), do laundry, pack, and leave again.

So How Do You Develop Expertise?

Honestly, I can't tell you from where I'm sitting, but an ungodly number of bloggers will try.  This post was originally going to be about education, then it morphed into experience, then into expertise, then I realized I couldn't really separate them as discreet topics to blog about.  My suspicion is that it takes not only a combination of education and experience, but also a certain amount drive and perseverance.  But more importantly, it isn't anything that can be absorbed through a 1000 word blog post and that you should be quite skeptical of anyone trying to sell you that kool-aid.

Comments (3) Trackbacks (0)
  1. The timing of this post seems perfect for the one I just wrote. :) Perhaps when I get home, to my own computer I’ll leave a more robust comment, but…

    Marketers run the world, they always have and… Most likely always will. I’m using a very broad definition of the term, but what I wanted to say is most times the “experts” you know by name really aren’t experts in their field, but are experts in marketing (and hopefully pretty damn good in his field). Every now and then you’ll find an expert in XYZ who is also an expert in marketing (or knows someone that does the marketing for them) and…

    I’m not sure where I was going with all of that. I think I’ll leave a part 2 to this comment when I get home. :)

  2. Part 2…

    On the ride back home a couple more things came to mind. First lets look at the title: “Education, Experience, or Expertise”

    I don’t think those all fit together exactly right. Expertise is the product of experience/education. I believe what you’re really is the education (formal) vs. experience (or informal) paths to expertise. I mean, that’s part of it anyway.

    You talk about it generally at first but it appears that you mean specifically in the “Web 2.0″ arena (even more specifically using social media for marketing/branding). And to that a dash of “How does one become an expert at this stuff?” and you have a very strange and tangy brew.

    I think basically what we have going on are a couple camps (specifically with social media). Experts who are experts at claiming to be experts, experts who are experts because they use it and then varying mixtures of the two.

    With social media (as everything else) “book knowledge” will only take you so book (this could come from classes, blog posts, books, etc.). You eventually need to get your hands dirty if you want to get good. What’s interesting about social media is that it’s so new and changing that if you just stay on top of the new and changing without really even getting your hands dirty, you are an expert. Just HAVING a Twitter account and knowing what an @reply is makes you an expert in the eyes of someone.

    Anyhow, getting your hands dirty is very necessary to have any sort of real expertise. Real expertise meaning expertise that increases sales (of product, ideas, etc.)

    Even though I’m pretty “exposed” you can put me down for being a guy that spends more of his time doing and less of his time talking about it (although my time will come for that ;) ). You know how I love Asian culture. I’ll compare what I’m doing to this:

    “[Samurai] Swords weren’t simply ‘cast’ in a mould and then sharpened. A Japanese samurai sword was made by an intricate process of heating the steel, hammering it flat, then folding it, then hammering it flat again, and folding. This process of repeated hammering and folding would be done up to as much as 30 times, or until the maker was satisfied it had been done properly.”

    Compare social media to a blade. Anyone who claims “guru” status right now has either been folding their blade for a number of years already (well before “social media” existed), or has cast their social media blade in a mold. Both blades will look identical to the untrained eye and you really don’t know it’s strength until it’s been tested in combat (ie REALLY selling or doing something).

    I’m getting close to satisfaction with my social media “blade.” :) Here’s a recent, but telling example of the fruits of my efforts. I can’t take all the credit though. Added to my experiences I learned MUCH from two books: Tribes and Tipping Point and I have much to learn.

    [MilTownKlan YouTube Alliance]

    Something I’d like to add really quickly at the end is so many of these “experts” stay strictly online. Views, clicks, etc. Perhaps they talking about sales of some item. What REALLY interests my is using all of this to evoke REAL changes in the “real” world (my thoughts on reality are totally separate subject ;) ).

    Anyhow… Thoughts are some of my thoughts anyway. :)

  3. Education or experience? What ever you are doing, are you happy with your life or at least the direction you are going? Are you making a difference? Is you education enhancing your experience, or just something that moves you up a rung? I think you’re reflected on these pretty well. I’m glad to see you’re blogging again and I’ll have to check in more often. I’m not really too savvy about using Twitter or facebook. Maybe I’ll have more time for it some day.

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